EXCLUSIVE: ‘We can go all the way on Dancing with the Stars’ – Kilkenny’s John Nolan
IN his first year on Dancing with the Stars John Nolan made it into the last eight with his then partner, the RTÉ journalist Theresa Mannion. Last year the Kilkenny dance star and comedian/actor Deirdre O’Kane made it through to the final. But this year John really feels he and his partner for this year’s series, the presenter Mairéad Ronan, can go all the way.
“Oh I’d really love to win it this year, mostly for Mairéad,” he said.
And he’s clearly not the only one. John and Mairéad have proved to be one of the biggest hits with audiences this year, particularly in Kilkenny.
It helps, of course, that John is a native – he grew up in the North Terrace Street area of the city and attended St John’s National School and then CBS before moving to Dublin to follow his dream of becoming a professional dancer. But people across the city and county, and indeed the whole country, have also been hugely taken with Mairéad, the only contestant still left in the competition who had never performed on stage before the current series of Dancing with the Stars began.
In an exclusive interview with KilkennyNow.ie ahead of this Sunday’s semi-final showdown, John said he’s not at all surprised at how popular Mairéad has been with the public.
“She came down to Kilkenny a few weeks ago for the [KCLRfm] live broadcast in the Pembroke Hotel and people just fell in love with her. She couldn’t get over the support she’s received and the huge influx of lovely messages and votes we’ve been getting.”
It’s pretty obvious John holds his dancing partner in high esteem, and that it’s not just a PR act to win votes. They have literally been working flat out together, regularly putting in gruelling 14-hour shifts in the studio to perfect their performances.
And so far their hard work is paying off. Last Sunday the judges awarded them a total of 27 points – their highest tally so far in the competition. But despite the long hours (and the occasion misplaced kick in the lower regions!) John says he’s been loving every minute of their time together.
He told KilkennyNow.ie: “She’s the easiest person to work with. She listens to whatever I say, she does what I want and we have great craic together. She’s everything you could want in a partner, she’s been a dream to work with.”
The down-to-earth Kikenny man seems happy for Mairéad to take the limelight, but he’s also built up a considerable following of his own.
His biggest fans, of course, are his family: his proud parents John and Joan and sisters Katie and Lianne have been tuning into the show every week. But if the reaction to his performances on social media are anything to go by, it seems all of Kilkenny is rooting for John to go all the way on the show.
John is praying our support will give them the edge to make it through the semi-finals this Sunday. And he revealed he and Mairéad plan to make a return trip to the Marble City next week if they progress to the final.
Although he lives in Tallaght, John regularly returns to Kilkenny to see his family and friends, and he has nothing but praise for his family, friends and the community who nurtured him and encouraged him to follow his dream.
John said he always knew he’d be a dancer, from as young as he can remember. He grew up around hurling mad mates, but he’s pretty confident his hectic work-out schedule would give any inter-county player a run for their money.
“This week myself and Mairéad have begun practicing at 7am until 5pm and 7pm in the evening – we’re putting in 12 and 14 hours dancing every day,” he said. To keep in such good shape, John has a fairly strict dietary regime, but he admits he often gets cravings for the occasional “spice bag”.
Looking ahead to this week’s showdown, John revealed he and Mairéad will be performing two brand new ballroom and Latin dances, which he says are “totally different, but equally as good, we’re really looking forward to the night”.
And he said he would dearly love to go one step further and claim the much-coveted glitter ball trophy.
“I do think we can do it, and Mairéad has been improving all the time. She’s been fantastic – she ticks all the boxes. I mean, Mairéad is the only one left in the competition who’s never performed before, she never had a single dance lesson before the show. She might not be a performer but she’s really focused and determined, and I’m determined to do everything I can to get her to the final.”